As a recipe developer and food writer, I am forever stretching the culinary limits of my mind, constantly conceptualizing new or different directions to take whatever ingredients I have before me. I have challenged myself this summer to look at the grill as an experimental space, not simply an avenue for cooking my favorite grass-fed ribeye or charring a bone-in, pasture-raised pork chop.
With the Fourth of July just around the corner, the smell of amber coals will be filling the air in neighborhoods throughout the South, and while I will relish in the burgers and hot dogs that will undoubtedly grace the grates of our Weber, these fire-kissed side dishes are sure to be a highlight of the meal, adding a bit of nuance and unexpected depth to some classic recipes we all know and love.
First on the grill is a whole red onion — encased in tinfoil so that it can steam while other items rotate on and off the flames — becoming soft and sweet is the perfect topping for my grilled wedge salad with bleu cheese dressing.
Several cobs of corn will also roll along the grill grates, the sweet kernels caramelizing just so, highlighted by the cumin-infused lime dressing that brings the rest of this refreshing salad together.
Finally, red, white and blue fruit skewers add a fresh and patriotic touch to the meal, with sweet blueberries and watermelon playing deliciously with their salty counterparts of feta and prosciutto.
Easy to prep for a crowd and made that much better when ingredients are sourced from your local farmers’ market, these side dishes will ensure your Independence Day celebrations are as delicious as they are festive. On to the recipes …
Grilled Wedge Salad with Homemade Bleu Cheese Dressing
- 4oz bleu cheese
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- the juice from ½ lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 head iceburg lettuce
- 3 slices bacon
- 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 red onion
- 2 ounces bleu cheese
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- To make the blue cheese dressing, place the first seven ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until well-combined and nearly smooth but with a few chunks of bleu cheese, remaining. Season to taste. Remove to a bowl and set aside (remaining dressing will last up to one week in the fridge).
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay bacon on a rimmed sheet pan and roast in the oven for 15 to 18 minutes until crisp and brown. Remove from the oven and transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towel. Once cool enough to handle, crumble the bacon into small bits and move to a bowl. Set aside.
- Preheat a charcoal grill to medium-high heat. While the grill is warming, slice the top off of the red onion and remove the outermost layer of the onion. Place the onion on a piece of tinfoil and drizzle with one half of the olive oil, the kosher salt and the black pepper. Cover the onion completely with the foil and place on the hot grill, cooking for 30 to 40 minutes until soft. Set aside.
- Turn the head of the iceberg lettuce upside down, so that the root is facing up. Slice the head of lettuce in half, through the root. Next, slice each half again, through the root, ensuring the root remains intact and that the four wedges hold together. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. During the last two minutes of the onion’s cook time, carefully place the lettuce wedges on the grill, cooking on each cut side for approximately one minute, allowing the edges of the lettuce to toast and char, slightly. Once cooked, remove to a serving platter.
- Remove the onion from the foil and cut in half. Then, cut into thin slices.
- Drizzle the bleu cheese dressing over the grilled iceberg and top with crumbled bacon, sliced tomatoes and grilled onion. Crumble bleu cheese on top and serve.
Grilled Corn Salad
- 5 cobs of corn, husks removed
- 1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 1 jalapeno, seeds removed and diced (only use half, if you're spice sensitive)
- 2 avocados
- 1 tablespoon minced cilantro
- 3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- the juice from three limes
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
- Combine the red wine vinegar, lime juice, cayenne pepper, cumin and garlic in a bowl. Add ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Whisk to combine. Continue whisking and pour in the olive oil using a slow and steady stream, and whisking the entire time. Season to taste. Set aside.
- Drizzle corn with one tablespoon olive oil, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Toss to coat on all sides. Grill corn for 8 to 10 minutes — turning every two minutes or so — charring all sides. Remove to a platter. When cool enough to handle, cut the kernels from the cobs and transfer to a large bowl.
- Add the cherry tomatoes, red onion and jalapeno to the grilled corn. Toss with ¼ teaspoon kosher salt.
- Dice the avocado into half-inch cubes (you want to do this at the last minute so the avocado doesn’t brown). Add to the bowl with the corn. Toss the corn salad mix with 3 tablespoons of the dressing. Taste and add additional dressing as desired. Add the minced cilantro and toss gently to combine and serve.
Red, White and Blue Fruit Skewers
- 1/4 watermelon
- 12 large blueberries
- 6 slices prosciutto
- 4 ounces feta cheese in a block (not crumbled)
- long toothpicks or skewers
- Remove rind and seeds from watermelon and slice into 1-inch cubes. Slice feta into equal sized cubes. Slice prosciutto in half, lengthwise. Using a long toothpick or thin skewer, add one blueberry to the top. Push the pick through the top of one slice of prosciutto, so it is hanging from the pick. Add one cube of feta and pull the prosciutto up and pierce with the pick again, so that it is wrapped underneath the feta. Add one cube of watermelon and pull the bottom of the prosciutto onto the pick, underneath the watermelon. Layer skewers on a platter and serve.
With all these delicious sides, this is a meal in itself! Thank you to Lindsey McClave for showing us new ways to use our grill.
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